A tiny baby pygmy hippo has been born at the Zoo.
The youngster is nearly three weeks old and joins parents Sirana and Nato in the Zoo’s Hippo House.
The calf, which is yet to be sexed, is enjoying exploring the exhibit and using the heated pool. To enable Nato and Sirana time to settle into parenting once more, the hippos have remained off show since the birth of their little one. Keepers are hopeful that the Hippo House will open to guests very soon.
Lynsey Bugg, Bristol Zoo’s Assistant Curator of Mammals said: “The calf is looking very strong and it certainly feeds well. Like any youngster, it wants to be close to Mum at all times and is often seen by her side. It spends short periods of time in the water but is not quite as good at swimming as its parents so we often see Mum Sirana guiding her little one back into the shallow water. Young hippos tire easily
The pygmy hippo is threatened in the wild, where it is thought less than 2,000 of these animals survive. In Liberia, destruction of forests surrounding the Sapo National Park by logging companies is damaging one of the few remaining strongholds for the pygmy hippo. Bristol Zoo Gardens is part of an international captive breeding programme for the pygmy hippo.
Lynsey continued: “The European programme is a well-established and very successful programme and our male, Nato, is a genetically important animal; by default, so will be his offspring.”
In the wild, females usually breed once every two years. A single youngster is born, after a gestation period of about six months. The baby weighs between four and six kilos and is unable to walk very far at first. Its mother conceals it in thick cover, visiting it to feed it. After three months it is able to feed on vegetation.
Pygmy hippos are, as the name suggests, much smaller than the common hippopotamus, with proportionally longer legs, a smaller head, less prominent eyes and ears more towards the side of the head. The pygmy hippo's nose and ears can be closed underwater, an adaptation to aquatic life.